Grandmaster Soumya Swaminathan will not represent India at the Asian Team Chess Championship, to be held in Iran from July 26 to August 4, because of the Islamic country’s hijab rule.
The 29-year-old Indian said that the Islamic country’s rule making it mandatory for women to wear hijabs, or headscarfs, violates her ‘basic human rights’ and this is why she has decided to skip the tournament. The former world junior girls’ chess champion said in a Facebook post:
“I do not wish to be forced to wear a headscarf or burqa. I find the Iranian law of compulsory headscarf to be in direct violation of my basic human rights, including my right to freedom of expression and right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It seems that under the present circumstances, the only way for me to protect my rights is to not go to Iran.”
Swaminathan had initially agreed to be a part of the Indian team for the championship when the host country was to be Bangladesh. “But once the new dates and new venue came up, I excused myself,” she added.
Swaminathan is not the first Indian sportsperson who refused to compete in Iran because of the hijab rule. In 2016, Indian shooter Heena Sidhu had also withdrawn from the Asian airgun meet in Iran citing the same reason. American chess player Nazi Paikidze had also refused to play the knockout world chess championship in Tehran last year over the same rule.
When asked whether the All India Chess Federation should have protested after Iran was selected as the host, Soumya said, “I can’t expect everyone to be of the same opinion as me. It’s subjective issue.”